There are a lot of reasons to use StumbleUpon, but I use it for one main purpose: StumbleUpon allows me to reach a wide range of people who might not normally have ever known my site exists. After all, the Web is a large place and it’s easy to get lost in it. You can have 14,000 followers and be featured in places like Lifehacker, National Geographic, or CNN, and still there will be people who don’t know anything about you. The fragmented nature of modern media allows you to be both big and small at the same time. The Internet creates a lot of small ponds where you can be a big fish, but none of these ponds are connected. After all, I only just found out about the video blogger iJustine, and she has one of the most-viewed channels on YouTube.
So using a service like StumbleUpon that shows users pages based on their preferences is a wonderful way to gain exposure to people who would otherwise never have found you. It puts my site in front of people who love travel but might not be following all the travel blogs out there (and that’s pretty much 99.9% of the population!).
And sometimes that serendipitous nature of StumbleUpon connects you to people you were already connected to, which can be a pleasant surprise.
As I travel the world and meet friends and friends of friends in random places, sometimes I realize how small the world really is. I’ve run into friends on the streets of Thailand. I’ve had people come up to me and say “Are you Nomadic Matt?” I once met my friend’s college roommate in Romania. It’s a small world and StumbleUpon sometimes makes it even smaller.
In 2010, I spent a month on the island of Ios in Greece and in the process made a lot of friends with the other travelers who stayed and worked there. Little did I know that StumbleUpon would connect this experience with an article I wrote about the 18 lessons I learned spending 5 years traveling the world.
One of the people that came to my post via StumbleUpon read the article, which has since received over 48,000 Stumbles, and noticed something strange about that post – something which she had to ask a friend on Facebook to confirm. “Alice, do you know your photo is on this guy’s travel website?” the Stumbler asked her friend on Facebook.
“Yes,” Alice replied. “I’m friends with him.” “Yeah, we met the guy in Ios. We all went back this year too,” another friend replied.
On a random site on the internet, someone had seen a picture of her friend. StumbleUpon just made her world and mine a lot smaller and closer together. And now because of that, she has liked my Facebook Page, subscribed to my newsletter?, and has a much deeper connection to the site than she would have otherwise.
Without that photo, she simply might have moved on – but the photo gave her a connection and got her to stick around. So while the picture did a lot of the work, that girl never would have found my site if it weren’t for StumbleUpon. After all, my friends don’t go around talking about my Web site! Had my post not been on StumbleUpon and showed up to people with an interest in Travel, I never would have had gained a new reader to my blog who feels more connected to me. I’m not just some random stranger – I’m a friend of a friend.
Who knows to whom I will pop up next? Maybe some traveler I met in Cambodia, a friend, a family member, or an old co-worker. You never know – and that’s why I continue to use StumbleUpon because its serendipitous, viral nature allows me to reach new people and jump over those small ponds, and help make my world a little smaller.
Nomadic Matt took his first trip overseas when he was 23 on a voyage to Costa Rica. Ever since then, he’s been hooked on traveling. His blog teaches other how they can travel the world on a tight budget and make it work with their busy lives.